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University of Saskatchewan-developed COVID vaccine begins clinical trials

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Saskatchewan has entered clinical trials.

The first 108 volunteers have been selected to receive the COVAC-2 vaccine developed by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan.

The trial is a combined Phase 1 and 2 study that is also placebo-controlled, taking place at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax. Two doses will be given to each volunteer 28 days apart.

To be greenlit for public use, three phases of successful trials must be completed. If this first phase brings in acceptable data, part two will use hundreds of volunteers to check vaccine safety and the immune response the vaccine generates in people, which VIDO says will measure how effective the vaccine will be.

CCfV principal investigator Dr. Joanne Langley says the study is to demonstrate vaccine safety in people, and as such their health will be monitored for a full year afterwards. 

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COVAC-2 is the second vaccine developed by VIDO to enter clinical trials. Both are subunit vaccines, containing purified viral proteins that are not infectious, something VIDO says is already used in commercially available vaccines for hepatitis, diphtheria, and whooping cough.

As such, the vaccine will not require super-cold storage, unlike vaccines with the synthetic messenger RNA or mRNA.

VIDO Director Dr. Volker Gerdts says that he thinks protein vaccines will have an advantage protecting against new variants as well.

Also with federal and provincial funding, VIDO is working on building a manufacturing facility that could produce up to 40 million vaccine doses per year, but they add this depends upon the production efficiencies of specific vaccines.

Construction is expected to be completed in late 2021 with vaccine production for facility certification planned for 2022.

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